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Senior Hunger and Nutrition Come into Focus Today in Indiana

PHOTO: Area Agencies on Aging are holding Senior Nutrition Awareness Events to educate seniors about healthy nutrition. Photo credit: morgue file.
PHOTO: Area Agencies on Aging are holding Senior Nutrition Awareness Events to educate seniors about healthy nutrition. Photo credit: morgue file.
March 21, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – While eating right and staying active is important for all Hoosiers, experts say it's particularly important for those who are older.

The governor has proclaimed today Nutrition Awareness Day, and across the state Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) are educating seniors about how a well-balanced diet is a key element in overall health.

Beth Evans is nutrition director for AAA’s Area 9, which serves greater Richmond. She says eating right helps recovery from illness and builds strength.

"Better nutrition prevents falls, prevents hospital stays and premature nursing home visits,” she stresses. “So nutrition helps them in many ways."

Whether it's gardening, walking, doing housework or some sort of exercise program, Evans says fitness is important and helps seniors stay active in the community longer.

Agencies in Indiana are providing Hoosiers with information and classes on nutrition, as well as menu plans and fitness tips.

Accessing nutritious food is a challenge for many seniors.

A recent report from the AARP Foundation, indicated that more than 13 percent of low-income Hoosiers 60 and older are at risk of hunger.

Emily Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry, says many seniors qualify for food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but don't enroll because they think they don't need it.

"If you don't need that $16 minimum benefit this month, maybe next month you do,” she points out. “And it's something that's available to them to make sure that they have the nutrition that they need to live in a healthy way and to live as independently for as long as they are able."

George Hawthorne, nutrition manager for REAL Services, the AAA serving greater South Bend region, says with reduced funding and increased costs it is harder for people to access food assistance.

He says his agency reaches out to the community for help with its Meals on Wheels program.

"We rely on volunteers to deliver all our meals,” he explains. “And so you've got donations, you've got fundraising, you have volunteers you are looking for at any given time. That helps the program, which helps us to reach more people."

Other programs in Indiana are providing nutritious meals to seniors, including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, food box distribution, and senior mobile pantries.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN